Austin Grows Up

austin grows up
A view of Congress at Town Lake, looking north, with the new Altavida, Austonian, and 501 Congress skyscrapers.

January 24, 2007 – The latest downtown development announcement arrived this morning when I opened up the Austinist and read about the grandiose phallus in the sky, with the grammatically challenged name, “the Austonian”.  It seems like every couple of weeks there’s a new monolith being erected for the teeming millions of young urban professionals that are looking to resettle in Austin in the next 3-6 years, preferably in sky high, spacious ‘lofts’ downtown with gorgeous sightlines and charming floor plans.

Of course, one of the things that always bothers me about the latest architectural design and layout is that all the other proposed and approved towers are left out, leaving a modern piece of Dallas smack dab in little old Austin.  So I’ve started in one a personal project to photoshop together with the best of my meager abilities, the other approved designs for downtown that will alter this city drastically.

The Austonian is a 55 story building, costing $200 million dollars to build, that will feature some mixed retail at the bottom floors, and luxury living up above, at the suggested rate in the neighborhood of $2,800 a month.  It’ll be situated at 2nd and Congress, near its rising neighbor, the Altavida.  Not to be confused with old search engines, the Altavida is a soaring 37 story testament to solid construction techniques that will op off at about $90 million, and be complete just before its taller neighbor in the spring of 2009.

For comparison’s sake, the current behemoth of the skyline, the Frost Bank Tower, is 33 stories tall and 515 feet.  Of course, it’ll live in the shadows of its new neighbor to the north, the 501 Congress Tower, which will rise 47 stories and over 700 feet.  

The sum result of all this is nearly 120 floors of living spaces within four city blocks.  I’ll all for high density living, concrete, and skyscrapers, but I just don’t see how Austin will cope with the outrageous growth that is planned for downtown.  It’s a gamble, squeezing so many people into an area so ill suited for high density living – there’s no worthwhile public transportation beyond slow, overcrowded buses, and the nearest full service supermarket is Whole Foods, seven tenth of a mile away.  That means in addition to the 25,000 new residents, they’ll probably be at least another 12,000 cars taking to the streets on a regular basis.  The fact the city will cater to a potentially uber-rich clientele to fill the empty spaces could alter the social fabric of Austin forever.  I guess as an artist making outlandish paintings for a living, 25,000 ultra rich people living three miles to the west with empty walls is perhaps the best thing to come from this. 

Austin Grows Up
The new Austin skyline, projected as of January, 2007:


After stumbling across this entry from Prentiss Riddle’s always interesting blog about seemingly everything under the sun, the fire lit under my seat encouraged me to hack through another picture of the new Austin skyline. 

I wanted to do something along these lines originally, with more of a view of the western part of the city, but I never scoured the web hard enough.  This picture includes the Spring 360 building, which replaces Gallery Lombardi and Tambaleo (the site of the old Electric Lounge), along with the tall West Austin Hotel and Residences (Block 21), which stands 80 feet shorter than the Frost Bank Tower, and has plans that includes the star power draw of Willie Nelson, the ACL Stage, and the Children’s Museum, along with an astounding 750 underground parking spaces.

I’d also like to point people in the direction of the Urban Austin wiki, which proved invaluable in putting these quick and dirty photoshops together.

Frost Bank Tower 4th and Congress 515 ft,
33 stories
0 2004 52m
Altavida 1st and Congress 416 ft,
37 stories
253 spring 2009 90m
Austonian 2nd and Congress 700 ft,
55 stories
retail, condos 195 2009 200m
5th and Congress 705 ft
47 stories
retail, condos, hotel 180-200 2008 ?
Block 21 2nd and Lavaca 433 ft.
36 stories
retail, hotel, museum 206 2010 225m
AMLII 421 W 3rd 225 ft.
18 stories
apartments 231 March 2008 44m
Spring 360 3rd and Neuces 581 ft.
44 stories
some retail
432 May 2008 ?
Seaholm Seaholm PP ?
22 stories
hotel, condos, retail, office 60 Mid 2009 100m